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Vineland, NJ - New Jersy Holocaust Survivor Says She Remembers Seeing John Demjanjuk

Published on: December 1, 2009 10:01 PM
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Vineland Holocaust survivor remembers seeing John Demjanjuk at Sobibor death campVineland Holocaust survivor remembers seeing John Demjanjuk at Sobibor death camp

Vineland, NJ - Esther Raab says she remembers John Demjanjuk.

She remembers him as a Ukrainian soldier, working in a Nazi death camp in Poland when she was a captive there in 1943. He would bring ammunition into the armory, where it would be fed into chains for machine guns. He would then leave with the ammo, and she’d hear the firing squads execute camp prisoners. Demjanjuk would return with the spent ammo.

“He wasn’t the tops,” Raab said. “He helped with transport. He put in the bullets. He went with the machine (gun).”

“When they caught him in America,” Raab said, “I said, ‘I remember him.’”

Today, Demjanjuk stands trial in Munich, Germany, for alleged war crimes in arguably the world’s most watched trial, as German prosecutors bring forth a case that, according to the German magazine focus, will have no eyewitnesses.

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Meanwhile, the 88-year-old Raab sits more than 4,000 miles away in her adopted hometown of Vineland, with no part in the trial. She spent nine months at the Sobibor death camp in Poland before escaping in 1943 during a successful uprising there and hiding in a family friend’s barn for months. She later came to the U.S. with her husband, Irving, and they settled in Vineland, where their chicken farm grew to become Vineland Kosher Poultry, which bills itself as one of the nation’s three largest kosher chicken slaughterhouses.

Raab says she would testify in the Demjanjuk trial if asked. After all, it wouldn’t be her first war crimes trial. She testified in the 1950 trial of former Sobibor gas chamber operator Erich Bauer after she and a fellow Sobibor survivor spotted him at an amusement park. Bauer was subsequently convicted of mass murder. She also testified in other cases, including in defense of a Sobibor officer who was acquitted after she spoke of his kindness to prisoners.

This time, however, no one has called.

“She some years ago could not identify him in a photo spread provided by U.S. government officials,” said Martin Mendelsohn, an attorney representing Sobibor survivors’ descendants who have joined in the case.

That was more than 32 years ago. It’s why in 1993, after she first went public with her recollections, the Simon Wiesenthal Center recommended that her testimony not be used in Israel’s case against Demjanjuk.

Now prosecutors have again gone on without her, proceeding in a case with a legal history like no other.

Soviet soldier, captured

Read the full story at Press Of Atlantic City 


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Read Comments (12)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 01, 2009 at 11:46 PM Milhouse Says:

“When they caught him in America,” Raab said, “I said, ‘I remember him.’”

If, when he was charged with having been Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka, she remembered him at Sobibor, why didn't she speak up in his defense? Obviously she did not remember him at that time, and is now imagining it. Such testimonies are very unreliable, as evidenced by all the witnesses who were sure they recognised Demjanjuk from Treblinka, when we now know he was never there.

2

 Dec 02, 2009 at 05:34 AM T.Blatt Says:

I thought prisoners were gassed at Sobibor, not shot.

3

 Dec 02, 2009 at 08:37 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Milhouse Says:

“When they caught him in America,” Raab said, “I said, ‘I remember him.’”

If, when he was charged with having been Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka, she remembered him at Sobibor, why didn't she speak up in his defense? Obviously she did not remember him at that time, and is now imagining it. Such testimonies are very unreliable, as evidenced by all the witnesses who were sure they recognised Demjanjuk from Treblinka, when we now know he was never there.

why should she have spoken up to defend him ? There is no reason to defend a suspected Nazi murderer. The guard she did defend was one who had been "kind" so maybe there was a justification in that case.

4

 Dec 02, 2009 at 03:06 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Milhouse Says:

“When they caught him in America,” Raab said, “I said, ‘I remember him.’”

If, when he was charged with having been Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka, she remembered him at Sobibor, why didn't she speak up in his defense? Obviously she did not remember him at that time, and is now imagining it. Such testimonies are very unreliable, as evidenced by all the witnesses who were sure they recognised Demjanjuk from Treblinka, when we now know he was never there.

You probably have not read the full article.
It says clearly, she mentioned it then that she remembers him from Sobibor, and Simon Wiesental center didn't want her to testify.
Here's what I think. A person that went through what the survivers went through, can never forget the faces of those animals.

5

 Dec 02, 2009 at 09:08 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

You probably have not read the full article.
It says clearly, she mentioned it then that she remembers him from Sobibor, and Simon Wiesental center didn't want her to testify.
Here's what I think. A person that went through what the survivers went through, can never forget the faces of those animals.

I read it. Did you? She claims to have remembered him from Sobibor. If this is true, then she knew he was innocent of the capital charges he was facing; why did she not speak up? That is why I don't believe her.

As for your theory that survivors can never forget those faces, then how do you explain all those witnesses who swore they recognised him from Treblinka? They were all surely convinced of what they were saying (or do you think they perjured themselves?), and yet it wasn't true. If there is one thing we can take from that trial it is that survivors' memories of Nazis' faces after all this time cannot be trusted.

6

 Dec 02, 2009 at 09:45 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

why should she have spoken up to defend him ? There is no reason to defend a suspected Nazi murderer. The guard she did defend was one who had been "kind" so maybe there was a justification in that case.

Why should she have spoken up? Because, if she really did remember him, then she knew that an injustice was being done. A person was convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death, based on evidence that was always dubious; that is a stain on the Israeli justice system, and more importantly it is a terrible stain on the entire Nazi-hunting apparatus. What's more, it is the reason why he was able to stave off extradition on the current charges for so long; his previous ordeal gave credence to his claim to be the victim of a vendetta. For years, he and his supporters were able to say "the Jews just hate me for no reason, they already nearly killed me on false evidence, and now they're trying again; if I'm acquitted this time too, they'll just try a third time." And on the surface that claim was plausible; it was only if you looked at the details that you realised that the evidence for Sobibor is much more solid than the evidence for Treblinka ever was.

7

 Dec 02, 2009 at 10:42 AM Anonymous Says:

I have known Mrs. Raab for years, and what is not mentioned here is that she has made keeping the memory of the Kedoshim alive her life's work. She has written a book about Sobibor which was made into a movie. She used to travel the country speaking at colleges, and speaking to children, she has been interviewed numerous times both for tv and print articles, and she remembers everything. I would trust her memory 100 per cent, as this is her specialty. She will never forget anything that happened there because she lives with it daily.

8

 Dec 02, 2009 at 11:44 AM Asher Buchwalter Says:

Every unnatural death occurred in Sobibor but # 6 you are correct this what caused many mistrials due to delayed and contradictory statements by some survivors. However, the mere fact that he was trained in Trawniki should have been sufficient to declared him involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity

9

 Dec 02, 2009 at 01:43 PM Anonymous Says:

the book written about sobibor which was made into a movie[a chrysler presentation and aired on t.v.]was written by Richard Rashke based on testimony by many survivors tovia blatt, sasha pecherski ester Raab[turner] is one of the interviewees to all the survivors i say biz hundred und tzwantzig!

10

 Dec 02, 2009 at 03:22 PM Anonymous Says:

Sobibor survivors who knew all the guards (they were assigned to clean the barracks) testified in Israel that he was never at Sobibor.

This trial will only backfire no matter what the verdict is.

11

 Dec 02, 2009 at 03:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Sobibor survivors who knew all the guards (they were assigned to clean the barracks) testified in Israel that he was never at Sobibor.

This trial will only backfire no matter what the verdict is.

12

 Dec 03, 2009 at 03:28 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #11  
Anonymous Says:

Sobibor survivors who knew all the guards (they were assigned to clean the barracks) testified in Israel that he was never at Sobibor.

This trial will only backfire no matter what the verdict is.

Which just goes to show how unreliable people's memory of faces is after so many decades. Because the documentary evidence that he was at Sobibor is pretty convincing (unlike the evidence for Treblinka, which I never believed).

13

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